Monday, June 6, 2011

The Price of Nice

Most people don't include "nice" in their descriptions of me, and the reason for this is simple: People who are superficial usually call me harsh, cold, or mean. They simply don't think I am "deserving" of such a title; people who are deep usually call me honest, passionate, and sweet. They know more about me than to settle for "nice" as a term to describe my character.

Nice is superficial. Nice is surface-level. Nice is what you call a person when you don't really know them that well. I don't like nice.

It's what the neighbors say about the quiet guy living next door who ended up in prison as a mass murderer. When the police come a'knockin to inquire into the nature of the man who killed twenty people while living in Quiet Town Suburbia, the little old lady next door says, "He was so nice but..." he was actually a loner and no one ever really saw him much. He never came out during the day or participated in normal neighborly activities. He was kind of strange. He didn't talk much.

One of my favorite books is "Who's Pulling Your Strings" by Harriet B. Braiker. In it, she highlights some of the issues of "the price of nice." I thought I'd share with you, Dear Reader, in my shameless plug for the book that helped me out of two of my worst manipulative relationships. Highlighting and bolding for emphasis, mine.

...The more you identify with being nice and pleasing others to guarantee and ensure their approval and acceptance of you, the more insecure you will become. The more you identify with being nice instead of being real, the more you will find yourself plagued by nagging doubts and insecurities and lingering fears.

If your approval addiction is deeply entrenched...your willingness to do nearly anything to avoid disapproval, rejection, and worst of all, abandonment [will be obvious to outside-observers].

**Note from me: As I am re-reading this, I find that I'm imagining a person like NMIL reading this book. Since all Narcs look for ways to turn your accusations of abuse back around on you, this would seem the perfect book for them to find all the right words to use. Couldn't you see it? "Why are you doing this to me, DS/DD? I was always so NICE to you because I have such a deeply entrenched need for approval. I was always so willing to avoid YOUR disapproval and rejection that I was nice to you all of the time in spite of everything you did to me. I am nice, is that my crime? Is that why you hate me so much? Because I am an approval addict and you are taking advantage of my niceness?"

In reality, Narcs use "nice" as a shield, a ruse, an elaborate part of their facade. They hide behind niceness so as not to show their true selves: which are depleted, dark, and cruel and TERRIFIED of abandonment. Braiker makes it very clear, throughout this book, that she is NOT addressing manipulators. Instead, she is speaking to the people who have been manipulated and wish to break free. She goes on to address the real issue, which is that Non-narcs who are easily manipulated use nice to hide their insecurities, thereby allowing manipulators to strike:

Soft-target thought: I should always do what others want, need, or expect from me.

Corrected hard-target thought: If and when I want, I can choose to fulfill the wants, needs, or expectations of others who are important to me.

Soft-target thought: I should always try to please other people and make them happy.

Corrected hard-target thought: I know that it is impossible to please other people all he time or for me to make everyone happy. Setting myself up by trying to do the impossible will only make me feel inadequate and unhappy."

Soft-target thought: Other people should appreciate and love me because of all the nice things I do for them.

Corrected hard-target thought: I hope that other people love me for the person I am rather than for what I do for them. When I choose to do nice things for others, I hope they appreciate my efforts.

Soft-target thought: Other people should always like and approve of me because of how hard I work to please them.

Corrected hard-target thought: I know it is not reasonable or even possible for everyone to always like and approve of me. I would like the people whom I like and respect to reciprocate my own feelings, but the most important approval I need is my own.

Ironically enough, I believe, Narcs do uphold some of these "soft-target beliefs." They behave in a seemingly "nice" manner because they are so desperate for the love and approval of those around them. Narcs have a deep-seeded desire for approval. The problem is that their insecurities don't translate into any sort of genuine caring, love, or understanding of others. Non-narcs who are addicted to approval don't, technically, have the best interests of others at heart either, though they might like to think they do. Both parties use "nice" as a way to get the love and approval they are seeking. The difference is, of course, that Ns behave that way at the EXPENSE of everyone else.

Braiker says:

If you have to compromise your own values, needs, or identity as a special or unique individual, the price of nice is just too high. Being nice will not always protect you from unkind treatment of others. Thinking that it will is likely to make you feel guilty and responsible if others treat you badly. You are under no obligation to reward people who treat you badly or unkindly or who manipulate or exploit you by acting nice and pretending that everything is fine. It is okay not to be nice some of the time.

Soft-target thought: I price myself on being a nice person.

Corrected hard-target thought: I pride myself on being a sincere, honest, genuine, principled, hard-working and independent [or any other aspect of your self-concept other than the one-dimensional wishy-washy nice] person.

Soft-target thought: Being nice sometimes prevents me from expressing negative feelings toward others.

Corrected hard-target thought: I realize that sometimes it is far better for me to say what is really on my mind, even if it involves unpleasant feelings, than to stuff my feelings inside and to become depressed, anxious, or unhealthy in other ways just so I can tell myself that I am nice.

I believe the above two statements are core in a Narc's system of beliefs. Unlike ACoNs and other people who are easily manipulated, Narcs never learn how to cope with their negative self-images. Instead of discovering means to reverse any unhealthy coping mechanisms, they enter a reality so skewed, that they DO stuff the unpleasant "feelings" down far enough that they are barely existent. Narcs pride themselves on being "nice." That's all they have to show the world because their ability to express healthy "negative" emotion is long gone. In fact, the feelings themselves may be so long buried, that they themselves have disappeared entirely, and there is no longer a reserve of healthy emotion to be drawn on in times of need.

Or else, they were never capable of those emotions to begin with, and then, perhaps we are crossing over into the world of sociopaths, where empathy was never even a remote possibility.

When I first meet someone, I make it a point to look deeper than nice. If I find myself saying, "Well she was nice" then I know I haven't looked deep enough. Nice is usually just a facade, a mask, a show. I strive to look past that, into the depth of that person's character. Nice is just too fake for me. People aren't really "nice" - they are caring, generous, empathetic, kind, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, passionate, engaging, considerate! And on the flip side, they can be dark, dishonest, cruel, unenlightened, juvenile, petty, controlling, viscous. People are nitty-gritty. They are detailed. Everyone has a story. And nice just doesn't cut it.

I found a rather interesting note about "nice" at that I think illustrates my point well. Bolding for emphasis, mine: Usage note - The semantic history of nice is quite varied, as the etymology and the obsolete senses attest, and any attempt to insist on only one of its present senses as correct will not be in keeping with the facts of actual usage. If any criticism is valid, it might be that the word is used too often and has become a cliché lacking the qualities of precision and intensity that are embodied in many of its synonyms.

I could see people describing NMIL with that word, in particular if they were to "defend" her against "my attacks" on her character. "But Jonsi," they would say reproachfully. "NMIL is just so nice! How could you be so cruel to her? She's trying. You're just too harsh!"

But there it is. By "harsh" they must mean "real."

Nice. Real. The juxtaposition, for me, is between those two words. If you're being nice than you aren't being real. And, by definition, if you're being real, you can't be nice. What is real is NOT superficial. Ergo, people don't describe me, ever, with the word "nice." Superficial people choose, instead, to see my honesty as lack of warmth. I have been described as cold, harsh, and difficult, usually by those who value the idea of "nice."

Nice, Dear Reader, is actually quite ugly in my book.


  1. I know that in my studies to become a better writer, I learned long ago that nice was not to be used, because it was too broad, too generic, too non-descriptive. I find it a good word to use with someone I don't know well. I see it as a good starting point. Your examples here clarify for me that the problem in dealing with a narc is that it's the only point. Because the definition of nice is so nebulous, the narc decides what it means and changes that definition at will.

  2. Beautifully worded, Judy! Well said. It's obvious that the time you spent to become a better writer was not wasted. I love your comment, it is both insightful and well-written.

  3. i hate the word nice because its the word i use when i dont know wtf im talking about. i hate the word nice cause its what i used to call my parents and waht i still find myself calling them. 'but they're nice'. i hate the word nice but i still find myself using it. i use it when i am afraid to say what i really mean. i wish the word would disappear because it truly is the most meaningless word in the world. i think a part of me is still yearning really hard for it to mean something. i want nice to finally show its worth, because it never did when i used it for my parents. can nice please be redeemed. i know kind is the better word but i am so afraid to use it. its like i almost cant believe in it. i dont know what words mean anymore.
    i see the thing about negative feelings. i wish i was meaner. but i already feel like the biggest most destructive out-of-line puny imbecilic girl in the world, i dont know how i can be any more real than i am now. these days, i am not feeling negative feelings, i am feeling extreme pain and neediness. i have never felt this needy in my life.
    i've entered a new realm of pain where i just realized that all of the times my mom was 'nice' or was in her 'good' mode, that all those times we did use to talk, and the time we did spend together, im starting to see it in the most insidious light. i see it as the horrible abusive selfish manipulation it is. it is tearing at my soul to realize that even all that 'regular standard' every day times, the TIME that i spent with her, was ALL ABUSIVE towards me. that all of it was a selfish sadistic blind unempathic twisting of my soul. this realization is absolutely killing me jonsi. i dont know how i am going to make it through this one. i can't sleep. i can't do anything. i just want someone to save me and get me the fuck out of here. i can't believe the horror i am experiencing. i feel like i have been most mercilessly and completely toyed with, and tossed aside like a doll.

  4. The way I was brought up made me the perfect employee and the perfect friend. I was always trying to be "nice" by pleasing others and putting their needs ahead of my own.

    My upbringing also made me the perfect DOORMAT and the target of people who, quite rightly, saw my "niceness" as a sign of weakness and capitalized on my desire to be liked by all. Finding, that in spite of my niceness, some people didn't like me was devastating!

    Now, I just don't give a shit! In spite of all my efforts I couldn't even get the two people who gave me life to love/like me, so the odds of winning over the rest of the world are pretty slim.

    The one third rule works for me. Of the people you meet, regardless of what you do, 1/3 will like/love you, 1/3 will dislike/hate you, and the final 1/3 don't give a shit either way. The moral is be yourself and fuck 'em!

    Great example of where being "nice" gets me. A neighbour has a vintage car (67 Firebird!) but no place to park it because over the winter there is no street parking. Another neighbour said he could park it in her driveway for $190/month. I have room in mine and let him park it for free because I'm so damn "nice". He said in return he'd clear the snow from my driveway and then never touched a flake!

    After having the car in my driveway for SEVEN MONTHS, two weeks ago I went over and asked a favour of him that would take about a 1/2 hour of his time. He agreed but so far has done nothing!!!

    I just realized a few days ago, I've been this guy's "nice" doormat for seven months! Tonight I'm telling him to get his car the fuck out of my driveway! Not my problem that he can't park on the street because of road construction!

  5. Requested from library - lots of good info in this post alone. I'm sure to get quite a bit of good stuff out of this book. Thanks for the suggestion, Jonsi!

  6. i also look back and now i see that my parents were not there. they were NOT there. they DID NOT make themselves known. they just WERE NOT there. they never came to me, never asked me how i felt, never knelt down on the ground with me. they were like vague ghosts whose presence i anxiously watched and waited for. they were so horrible but oh how i wanted them. i look far back, way back, to the very beginnings of my life and i see they were not there.

    they were not there.

  7. also shaun i have to point this out cause its too funny. your comment on this post is THE nicest comment that i ever did see.
    not to be picking on you...i didnt mean to call your theory stupid. its just, i DO think it's stupid. cause i think the theory is bad for you.

  8. Lisa, Howard Halpern in his book "Cutting Loose" wrote something wonderful that definitely applies to you. "...your parent's unloving has left you with profound feelings of probably came to feel that if your parents did not love you there must be something basically, terribly unlovable about you...IT IS CRUCIAL TO ACCEPT THAT YOUR PARENTS NOT LOVING YOU IS A STATEMENT ABOUT THEM AND NOT ABOUT YOU. IN OTHER WORDS, IT BESPEAKS A DEFECT IN THEIR ABILITY TO LOVE RATHER THAN YOUR LOVABILITY."

    Lisa, you are not the one who is flawed or defective, your parents are! How pathetic and dysfunctional are they, that they can't do something as basic and instinctive as loving their own child?

    You are smart, funny, insightful and someone I would love to have as a friend. Too bad your parents are too fucked up to see what's right in front of them! Their loss, not yours!

    BIG HUGS! mulderfan

  9. Lisa - I agree with your thoughts about using the word "nice." I think, instead of redeeming "nice," it's better to find different, more descriptive words to use in our descriptions of other people. (If you don't like kind, maybe something else will work!) I think moving from the superficial "nice" to something deeper, whether good or bad, is a much healthier and more meaningful way to go.

    I'm confused about your comment directed at Shaun. Is the theory you are referring to something about Shaun being too nice? I think the problem with "nice" is that it is so often used disingenuously. I didn't think Shaun was being facetious or fake when he said he wanted to read the book. Or, perhaps, you thought he was being too enthusiastic? I'm just confused about what theory you thought was bad for him?

    Finally, you talked about your painful realization that your parents were abusive. I'm so sorry for your hurt. I wish things were easier for you. I wish for you to find your enlightened witness! You seem to have a fighting spirit, despite your negative feelings about your Self right now. Keep at it, we're all in this together.

    Mulderfan - Good on you! I love that you're going to march over to your neighbor's house and tell him he doesn't get to be a jerk anymore. That's what I call standing up for yourself. There were so many ways you could have taken that realization - you could have felt sorry for yourself, you could have continued to let him abuse his privilege. Instead, you're going to march over there and say, "Enough's enough!" I love it.

    Shaun - The book was a HUGE help to me. I'm hoping you get something from it, it's full of some real gems.

  10. oh i was talking about a comment i left on his recent post 'my current theory.' i thought that theory was bad for him. i said it sucked.

    you're right. his comment seems sincere. i just thought it was funny how perfectly nice his comment was. made me laugh... but i can see that he wants to read the book. i kind of want to read it, now that i remember what we're talking about. i'm kind of out of it right now.

    thanks, mulderfan. at least someone likes me. it is still hard to believe..

  11. Lisa - I had a thought that maybe you were referring to a separate post/comment. Okay, I understand now.

    "I said it sucked." Ha! You seem pretty real to me, Lisa.

    I like you too, Lisa. You're funny and smart and real. Those are all like-able qualities.

  12. Used to feel the same way, Lisa! Recently, I said (jokingly) in a group. "When I grow up, I want to be a kick-ass old broad." and someone replied, "You already are!"

    Sometimes we just don't see what others already see. I see someone who is awesome and not afraid to kick some ass when needed. My kind of friend!

  13. i know! and i felt awful about it! saying that it sucked. do you know how much courage it took me to say that? wasn't that awful and mean of me?

    the thing about shaun (NOT TO PICK ON YOU HAHAHA) was that i felt he was stuck in an intellectualizing/over-analyzing phase and it annoyed me. i wanted to point that out to him. that was my immediate reaction to his post, that his theory sucked. but i didn't know what to do. you know how they say you can't force someone to grow, you cant tell them what to do, you can't fix them. so i only had two choices: be antagonistic and honest, or just leave him alone and let him find his own way.

    but then i thought, maybe it would be helpful for him if i DO point it out. what i feel is obvious. there is this crazy idealistic part of me that believes that i can hit on the perfect action that is beneficial to both of us. i just DONT KNOW FOR SURE what that is. i thought if me pointing that out would be helpful, then i would be both helpful AND honest. it would be good for both of us. i keep wondering, what if being honest IS good for both of us. not just for me. even if it's mean. all this time i thought being honest would take away from the other person, but what if it's actually good. i just have no way of telling if that's true and it scares me. i dont want to be inadvertently hurting the other person.

    can you SEE how much debate i go through, especially now as i question everything. talk about analyzing.
    i didnt expect him to be all HEY THANKS FOR TELLING ME MY THEORY SUCKS. i dont really care if he likes me or likes it or not. i just want to be honest. i just want to be honest so bad cause a part of me secretly believes it is good for him. (but i feel that's so selfish to think! cause i know i hate it sometimes when people tell me what to do or give me advice when i just want silent empathy. but maybe this isn't the same thing.)
    but its terrifying.

    that's the thing about being real. is that everyday i have to do something that terrifies me. you cant stop being real. and the thing is, i'm always changing. so i'm scared that even though you guys like me now, youre not gonna like me later. youre not gonna like me when i get down to the REAL me or the REALER me. it was so hard for me to say his theory sucked. and in the end, i dont even know if i did the right thing.
    every time i try to be real, i get filled with such great pain. do you know what i mean?
    so i feel like maybe i just shoudln't say anything. it isn't rewarding. yet this stupid part of me keeps egging me on. i dont know if its a good voice or a bad voice. its this voice that says 'but why not? what're you afraid of? but why not? why not say it?'
    but the rebellious voice keeps telling me WHY NOT?

    i hate the rebellious voice. its the one that gets crushed, its the one that's told it is being difficult and worthless and stupid. it's the one that is constantly threatened with 'YOU SHUT UP NOW YOU STUPID CHILD.' the adult/the institution/the authority telling me to GET IN LINE. it's the voice that keeps telling me to rebel against them.

    so i dont know if i'm being real or just extremely antagonistic!!! i feel sometimes i must hate everybody! theres a part of me that is resentful towards everybody! there is a part of me that wants to go 'against' everybody. maybe it just feels that way because my mom perceived everything i did as 'against' her. maybe because being myself really is something that is AGAINST the horrible force of her.

    its so hard when being yourself is AGAINST something. when it's not something you can take for granted.

    anyways that is what i wanted to explain about this process of being me. i just wonder if i am making any progress because it keeps on hurting and causing me such fear. every time i try something new, i think 'oh you've really done it this time!'.

  14. Jonsi, please forgive this short comment-thread-jacking, but since it was brought up here, I thought I'd address it here.


    You're more than entitled to your belief/feeling/opinion about my theory. I mean, it's just something I'm pondering, and is in no way set in stone. I just think it's a possibility. As far as it being "stupid," well, as you pointed out, it may be "bad" for me, but that doesn't make it's "stupid." In fact, I thought I had a made a very relevant connection and took pride in making it. If I'm to be truthful, I think the "stupid" comment was utterly deflating. If that was it's purpose, it did it's job.

    I get that you may be frustrated reading my thoughts because you have your own thoughts regarding my posts that you feel the need to defend. I understand that mindset completely because I fall into that trap on a fairly regular basis. Had the "stupid" comment been left off the post, I probably would have been more receptive to the other messages in your comment, but after reading it, I pretty much shut down and didn't really take to heart anything else that was written.

  15. Back to the subject at hand: Yes, that was a genuine comment. When I first started my recovery, I was reading every book imagineable on PDs. For the most part, I've read pretty much everything worthy of my time on the subject, minus actual textbooks and journals. Anytime someone suggests a piece of literature they've found helpful (and this post pretty much states that this is the book that helped Jonsi out), I'm thankful for the suggestion. So, thanks again, Jonsi! Looking forward to the read!

    Signed - Shaun St. Niceguy

  16. Shaun - I have no problem with the "comment-thread-jacking."

    What I see here, between Shaun and Lisa, is a very real dialog, in which both parties are expressing their thoughts, opinions, and feelings. I definitely don't see any false "niceness" going on.

    I have not read the post that Lisa commented on, so I don't know the back story. It seems to me that Lisa, in her quest to get real, offered her opinion on the post and that it cut a little deep for Shaun. I see some defense mechanisms, for sure, on both sides of the mini-debate. I can also see Lisa's back-and-forth inner-dialog about right and wrong and her wonderment, "Am I doing the right thing?"

    Isn't that what we're all trying to figure out?

    I try to stay away from words like "stupid" because they seem to be intended to hurt, rather than help. BUT, in the interest of staying away from hypocrisy: that's not to say I haven't used that word before. Sometimes, in our moment of truth, we just want to say, "Well...that's stupid!" I've said it! I've even said it to DH, and then felt really bad about saying it! Sometimes, just because something doesn't seem rational, doesn't mean that it's stupid. On the flip side, just because someone says it's stupid, doesn't mean that they are calling YOU stupid.

    I still think we should all be truthful with each other. And if someone has something to say that isn't "nice" than perhaps we should get to the bottom of what's really going on.

  17. Shaun - I know well, that moment in a conversation where you have to "shut off" because something has been said that gets to you. Example, L recently said to me at the beginning of a diatribe, "Jonsi, I hope you will listen with an open heart."

    I stopped her right there and said, "L, that's a really awful way to start. If you start off a conversation by telling me I am cold-hearted, why on earth would I want to listen to you?"
    Answer: I don't, and I didn't.

    This is not to say that L wasn't entitled to her beliefs, nor that she is "wrong" in her assumption that I am not "open-hearted." It's just that I wasn't willing to listen to her words of advice if she was going to say such things. It was a moment of honesty for her. That doesn't mean I had to like it. get back on track to the subject of the post: Who's Pulling Your Strings was THE book that helped save me from my own manipulative relationships. I have read it countless times for myself, and now with DH. I have highlighted it, annotated it, and actively read it to death. I'll hang on to my original copy forever. I'm glad that you are willing to check it out and I hope that you get something out of it, Shaun, even if it's just a useful tidbit here or there.

  18. Rats! I just realized I said "should" in one of my comments. I don't like that word. I do not want to impose my "shoulds" on anyone. So I will revoke the statement, "And if someone has something to say that isn't "nice" than perhaps we should get to the bottom of what's really going on."

    Instead, I will say, "If someone has something that isn't "nice" to say, I would like it if we all used it as an opportunity to get to the bottom of what is really going on."

  19. yeah i wasn't trying to help by calling it stupid. that was just my honest reaction and expression. maybe i am not helping you, even though i want to. i am only trying to be myself and help myself. you don't have to like me.

    i want to say i'm sorry, because of your hurt feelings. i can sense that you are angry at me and found my comment humiliating. but i'm not sorry. it was what i wanted to say, in reaction to you. it truly and honestly was. i am not sorry.

  20. Lisa - You don't feel sorry that you may have hurt Shaun's feelings?

    This bothers me!

    I can understand you having your own thoughts and opinions about whatever topics are being discussed. I can understand you expressing your reactions. I don't think these are things that anyone need feel sorry for.

    I don't understand why you would acknowledge that you may have hurt someone's feelings, or purposely humiliated them and not felt sorry for it. You said you wanted to help Shaun, but then you said that you were only trying to help yourself.

    Would you be willing to explain how saying Shaun's theory was stupid would help you? I'm not seeing the connection between calling something "stupid" and trying to help someone, even for the sake of being honest.

    I feel that, if you really did say something with intent to hurt, then apologies really are in order. In essence, I don't understand why you are not sorry, and it bothers me so much to hear that you are not!

  21. @Lisa:

    I get it, honest. You really thought the theory sucked. That's fine. I just think you could have been a little more tactful in getting that point across.

    Also, I do find it odd that you're sticking to it without apolgizing, or at least trying to smooth things over somehow. In all honesty, the "that's just the way I am / how I feel / take it or leave it" schtick is a little to close to the stance my mom takes on everything. Ergo, it's probably not a stance you'd want to take seeing as how it's associated with everything we're trying to fight against.

  22. Re: The use of the word "stupid".

    I truly HATE this word because I was a special education teacher for over 30 years and it was used to humiliate and hurt my students.

    If the word MUST be used, there is a difference between saying, "YOU'RE stupid" and "THAT'S stupid." The first example is a PERSONAL attack and can be very hurtful.

    Most of us ACoNs have been called stupid, useless, crazy, etc. by our Nparents so we're hyper-sensitive to such put-downs and rightly so!

    BTW My "nice" request for my neighbour to get the car out of my driveway went over like a turd in a punch bowl. He argued with me! I "nicely" gave him 48 hours to find a new place to park it! That's about 47 hours longer than he deserves!!!

  23. Mulderfan - There we have it! The price of nice! The price you've paid is having your niceness shoved down your throat. That guy is a prick. It's too bad he lives next to you! He has WAY worn out his welcome in your driveway.

    By the way, Mulderfan, I love your humor. "Turd in a punchbowl" had me laughing out loud.

    As for the use of the word "stupid." Growing up, we were never allowed to use that word. Or "shut up." To get around it, we used to say, "Shut and then the rest, you stu and then the rest." My mom didn't really like that either because everyone knew what we were really saying...but it always ended up making everybody laugh and the humor diffused the situation.

    Like I've said, I'm ashamed to admit I have resorted to calling people, "stupid." Even loved ones! I felt bad about it afterwards though. It's just not a kind or considerate thing to say. I think there are other ways of getting our points across in most cases.

  24. omg whatever. i don't understand what is what either and i really don't care at this point. i said what i said and that's how i talk. it's not a schtick. take it or leave it. you can compare me to your mom if you want and tell me it's a stance i don't want to take. seriously, whatever. in all honesty, i just do not care.

  25. Lisa, if I may interject my thoughts again: It's my thought that no one is attacking you here. I also think that you are operating from a place of hurt and that's a really hard place to be in. I believe you are on the "defense" so to speak, and I can sense your extreme frustration, hurt, and sadness.

    I don't think anyone is asking you to care about anyone but yourself right now. I think that's an okay mindset to be in - Lisa is taking care of Lisa. You don't have to do that for anyone else.

    I believe you are a caring, loving person. You are not a Narc. You are not your parents. You are not even "like" your parents because you have the capability of empathy.

    I get Shaun's frustration, too. I think he has left his thoughts, not because he wishes to be cruel, but because you have said things that triggered an emotional response in him. It's not really about the words themselves anymore, but about the meaning behind them. I am listening to both of you and I see a lot of hurt, and two people coming to the table with sad memories of the parents they never wanted, who couldn't provide them with their most basic needs. I am trying to listen, the best way I know how, to everyone who comments on my posts.
    And, though it is only my opinion, I believe in the good that is here.